The continued jaw-dropping success of Spider-Man, combined with widespread and eager anticipation for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, has made irrelevant any speculations about whether Summer 2002's international box office will beat that of 2001.

But even before the big hitters came into the equation, early indications were that it was going to be a hot summer at the box office.

The (slightly pre-summer) release of UIP's Mummy franchise spin-off The Scorpion King has already taken $42.3m from its 36 international territories.

The film opened day-and-date with the US in nine international territories including Australia, the UK and Hong Kong. The actioner has yet to open in Japan, The Mummy Returns' most successful territory, just ahead of the UK, taking $30.2m last year. With $75.6m taken so far in North America The Scorpion King's results bodes well for the summer slate.

Naturally the major summer boost will come from Spider-Man and Episode II. Quite apart from its phenomenal US take of $224m in 10 days, Spider-Man took a further $21m from the 18 international territories that received it day-and-date. Its record-breaking Japanese opening last weekend saw $9.6m (Y1.23bn) grossed, in addition to its $3.3m in previews.

Star Wars: Episode II is making money despite being a week off release with massive ticket pre-sales. In the UK, where cinemas across the country will be showing it from 12:01am on May 16, Odeon cinemas, the country's largest chain, had already recorded its third best pre-sales for Episode II - behind Episode I and Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone and ahead of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring - with six days left to go.

The cinema with the country's biggest single-screen capacity, the Odeon Leicester Square, has sold out its entire first day, which consists of six screenings in an auditorium of 1,943 seats.

Back in summer 1999, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, achieved an international gross of $490m-plus, the top-grossing international film of that year.

Cantor Index, the online spread-betting company, has set the US opening spread for the new Star Wars film at $90m-$93m with a four-week total spread of $290m-$296m. The estimated opening spread for the film in the UK, which will be confirmed later in the week, is£8.8m-£9.1m.

In comparison Cantor's original spread on Spider-Man in the US was an opening of $84m-$87m and four week total of $220m-$226m. Post-opening, the four-week spread on the film has grown to $290m-$296m.

Pre-sales in Japan, the biggest international territory, are already four times higher than those for Episode I and five times those for Harry Potter with the film not scheduled to open until July 13.

Japan was by far the most successful territory for Episode I grossing $110m, ahead of the UK's $82m. In Australia Episode II has already sold $1m in ticket pre-sales

Expectations are also high for a slew of other summer releases. Columbia's Men In Black 2 - the sequel to the 1997 original which grossed $337.1m from international territories - opens day-and-date at the beginning of July in several countries including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Another Columbia release, Stuart Little 2, launches day-and-date on July 19 in Japan and the UK.

The original film grossed over $150m internationally in 1999. XXX, the company's action title starring Vin Diesel and Samuel L Jackson, rolls out from mid-August after launching in the US on Aug 2. With the ever-popular Jackson taking a lead role in Star Wars, XXX has strong potential, however while the film should trade well in the US on Diesel after the $145m success of The Fast And The Furious last summer, that film took just $59m internationally so Columbia will be looking to positive word-of-mouth to bridge the gap between the US and international debuts and secure a strong response abroad.

Fox backs up Star Wars with Steven Spielberg's Minority Report which starts off in the UK on July 4. Subsequent openings include, Italy (Sep 27),France (Oct 2), Germany (Oct 3). With the huge draw of lead, Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible 2 was the biggest international release of 2000 with $330m) and the fact that Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence grossed $156m internationally last year, nearly twice its $78.6m US gross, prospects are high to say the least.

Buena Vista's animated outing Lilo & Stitch will be looking to be perform better than last summer's Atlantis: The Lost Empire ($85m international gross). Whether Disney can match the $200m international tally taken by DreamWorks/UIP's Shrek last summer is the key challenge. The film opens day-and-date in France and Italy on June 21.

New Line Cinema's Austin Powers In Goldmember will be looking to improve on the $104.3m achieved internationally by the franchise's second instalment, 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The original Austin Powers grossed $13.8m outside the US. The latest in the series debuts day-and-date on July 26 in Mexico and the UK.

Overall the summer should easily outstrip last year's slate. The soccer World Cup tournament, starting at the end of May, often effects European cinema-going but is not expected to have such an impact this year as the matches, played in Japan, will show in the morning across Europe, leaving audiences to fill their evenings with action, comedy, fantasy, galaxies far far away and shouts of "Yeah, baby"!

Top 10 Summer 2001 International box office

Title/Int'l debut/Int'l gross/Top Int'l territory (with gross)

1 Pearl Harbor/May 25(D&D)/$251.9m/Japan ($56.4m)
2 The Mummy Returns/May 10/$228m/Japan ($30.2m)
3 Shrek/June 7/$202m/UK($40.4m)
4 Jurassic Park 3/July 18(D&D)/$183m/Japan ($41.3m)
5 Planet Of The Apes/July 26(D&D)/$179m/Japan ($36m)
6 A.I. Artificial Intelligence/June 30/$156.4m/Japan ($74m)
7 American Pie 2/Sept 13/$131.4m/Germany ($30.8m)
8 Moulin Rouge/May 24/$114.4m/UK ($26.9m)
9 Cats & Dogs/July 7/$107m/$N/A
10 Rush Hour 2/Aug 3/$104.1m/UK (16m)

D&D = day-and-date opening with US release.